Starring Ricardo Montalban and Herve Villechaise Fantasy Island had charismatic modern-day sorcerer Mr Roarke running a holiday island with a difference. Guests, stumped up $50,000, to have their fantasies made reality.
Tropical island, with two men in white linen suits.
Not a Survivor-style take on island life then?
This was quality from an era when viewers weren’t supposed to get their kicks from watching others suffer and stab each other in the back.
Fantasies of the French maid variety?
Certainly not, this was a good, clean family show. Roarke’s guests always had some dark secret to be confronted during the fantasy conjured up for them. They all left attaining what Yanks call “closure”, and would board the plane home with a wistful smile.
Why was it so good?
Entertainment in its purest sense – an escape from reality. It was also gloriously bad. Some appalling acting, cloying storylines, feeble jokes. Despite giving the impression of a lavish production, the fantasies were always played out on a shoe-string budget. Somehow they were always disappointing.
Was it shot in paradise?
It looked like the tropics but was in fact the Arboretum in Arcadia, just outside LA – which was handy for the cast and crew.
Who was in it?
Ricardo Montalban played the charismatic dream-maker. His suave good looks also brought exotic sophistication to The Mexican, and Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan
What about Tattoo?
How could we forget the little man, just 3ft 11ins. He was played by Herve Villechaize, who also starred in The Man With The Golden Gun. The Frenchman delivered the best line: “Boss, de plane, de plane”. But he was later replaced by Christopher Hewett as the assistant Lawrence.
Where did it spring from?
Top TV producer Aaron Spelling can take the credit for that one. Hart To Hart is another one of the schmaltzy, but cult-status gems the Texan has left for posterity.
This man’s got a lot to answer for…
His stable of shows are remarkably bland, but the combination of beautiful people, romance and cheesy humour has been incredibly successful.
What happened to Tattoo?
Not good. Herve Villechaize committed suicide on September 4, 1993 in North Hollywood. Cause of death was self-inflicted gunshot wounds.
Any chance of a return to Fantasy Island?
US network ABC decided it was worth having another visit in 1998. English-born A Clockwork Orange star Malcolm McDowell bagged Mr Roarke.
Gave it some menace, did he?
Producers aimed for a darker, quirkier feel to the reprised series. McDowell’s Roarke wore Armani and gone was the clown role of Tattoo.
Not to be confused with:
Fantasy Island, a theme park in Skegness.
“What’s that Tattoo, are you in pain or something?” And “Look here Roarke, the room service is appalling.”
Kick-Ass TV Heroines: Xena – Warrior Princess
What was not to love about Xena? As Lucy Lawless says: “Xena is a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl.” Evildoers, clearly, must stand down, but not only bad guys (and girls) have Xena-phobia. Even heroes quake when she swings her broadsword.
Originally created as a syndicated complement to Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena pretty much kicked Herc to the curb. It was like when the Bionic Woman made us lose interest in the Six Million Dollar Man–only more so.
Unlike Lindsay Wagner’s early half-woman, half-machine, Xena wasn’t prone to frailty. Nor did she need robot parts. In fact, the Warrior Princess never lost. If she’s down, it’s not for long.
Plus, she was in touch with the dark side: This big-boned bruiser had definite moments of blood lust, as well as lust of some other varieties. Garbed in a leather miniskirt and armed with her trademark razor-edged, boomerang-action chakram, we watched Xena single-leggedly kick down entire platoons of Roman soldiers.
Sure, there were murmurings about Xena and her softer female sidekick, Gabrielle (actress Renée O’Connor). So what if they liked to conserve bathwater by doubling up? And what’s wrong with close friends frenching once in a while?
Then again, maybe it was true–and there’s anything wrong with that.
Actress: Lucy Lawless
Show: Xena: Warrior Princess
Classic TV Revisited: McMillan And Wife
Starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, McMillan and Wife was a super cute crime-solving saga from the 1970s made for the NBC’s Mystery Movie series.
Who were they?
Hubby was the debonair San Francisco police commissioner Stewart McMillan.
Sally was a foxy, rather scatterbrained dame with a knack for finding corpses.
Worked down the morgue did she?
Hardly. Sally’s finds were usually in some glitzy mansion which the couple were frequenting for a weekend cocktail party. She also had a habit of getting her life threatened or being kidnapped.
Who was in it?
Tragic Hollywood star Rock Hudson no less. He took on Stewart McMillan in his first TV role, after years as a matinee idol with movies such as Giant.
Fans of the lantern-jawed star were dismayed when he went public about having Aids. He had long kept his homosexuality secret. He carried on working in ’80s glam drama Dynasty, but make-up could not disguise the deterioration of this once-statuesque man. He died in 1985, aged 59.
What about Sally?
That role fell to raven-locked Susan Saint James. The Ali MacGraw lookalike was previously in shows such as Alias Smith And Jones and The Name of the Game.
A vital ingredient to McMillan And Wife was sharp-tongued housekeeper Mildred, played by Nancy Walker. Somebody needed to keep the place tidy while they gallivanted about solving crime.
Famous guest stars?
The couple’s conception?
Like Hart To Hart, the idea was borrowed from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man books of the ’30s.
Gritty crime drama?
Hardly. These were cosy whodunnit cases, where the brutality of murder was never portrayed. The show was more about the interplay between McMillan and Sally.
Had viewers arrested?
Certainly in the US. It was the fifth highest-rated show in 1972 and 1973.
Fate of the golden couple?
Susan Saint James quit in 1976 over a contractual dispute. Nancy Walker also packed away her duster as housekeeper Mildred.
The dame’s exit was a fatal blow?
Certainly for the character of Sally – she was killed off in a plane crash. But Rock soldiered on with new assistant Sgt Steve DiMaggio (Richard Gilliland). The show became McMillan.
Audiences dwindled and the plug was pulled.
Cosy pillow talk, cocktail parties, Rock Hudson, pyjamas and numerous corpses.
Let’s go to bed. Turn the light out, darling.
Must you eat toast in bed, darling. Apologies, but I’ve got terrible flatulence. Separate bedrooms.
Not to be confused with
My Wife Next Door, Harold Macmillan, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Mr And Mrs.
Classic TV Revisited: The Royal
The Royal was an ITV drama commission and was inspired by its sister programme Heartbeat.
The lowdown: This nostalgic family drama is set in the swinging 1960s and centres on the staff of a cottage hospital in Yorkshire. Newly qualified doctor David Cheriton (Julian Ovenden) is determined to make a difference to the world and arrives at St Aidan’s Royal Free Hospital in Elinsby full of big ideas. But he clashes with the hospital’s secretary TJ Middleditch (Ian Carmichael) who is determined to run things his way. Then there is the Matron (Wendy Craig) who rules her nurses with a rod of iron and tries in vain to stop them being distracted by the handsome arrival.
Memorable moments: Watch out for former Heartbeat favourite Bill Maynard who crosses dramas and continents as Claude Jeremiah Greengrass. Greengrass has returned from a Caribbean holiday with a mystery illness but that doesn’t stop him trying to earn a fast buck. It doesn’t take long before Claude attracts Matron’s ire.
Trivia: The Royal is a family affair for real life husband and wife Robert Daws (Ormerod) and Amy Robbins (Weatherill). No fewer than seven members of their clan have appeared in the series including their daughters and stepson.
Michelle Hardwick, who played receptionist Lizzie, says her favourite moment in the whole series didn’t come on screen but in the actors’ green room. She says: “I was sitting in there with Wendy Craig and Honor Blackman and we were having a lovely conversation. I sat back and thought ‘Wow, this is great, I can’t wait to tell my gran’.”
A modern day set version called The Royal Today aired 7 January – 14 March 2008.
First broadcast: 2003
Starred: Wendy Craig, Ian Carmichael, Michael Starke, Robert Daws and Julian Ovenden
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